Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Darkness...

     There is something soothing, something peaceful about darkness at the end of the day. When night falls, I know rest is coming and I don't mind the darkness.  There are also times when darkness isn't soothing. Sometimes it seems as though darkness is chasing you and you run for fear of being swallowed whole. This kind of darkness can come through the evil of this world, the darkness in the souls of others, grief, and depression to name a few. How we face the darkness can make all the difference. How we teach our children to face the darkness now, will shape how they face it on their own in the future.

     We have had some bouts of darkness this past week. There have been moments when I have wanted to get rid of all communication with the outside world and just be left alone. I can't. The kids have been with me and witnessed the same darkness and I have to show them what to do. I have to set an example. We've experienced the darkness of family members who use their words as weapons to destroy each other. This week has brought the darkness of grief as we have said goodbye to a special place full of precious memories and a beloved pet. Our community continues to experience the darkness of a suspected murderer running loose in the area. Six weeks of searching and the police still can't catch him. Helicopters hovering low over our homes, schools closed, and Halloween cancelled...people shaking with the darkness of fear and the last reported citing of him was not far from our home! So how do I show the kids how to face darkness?

     I must teach them to stay in the Light. Notice, I didn't say run into the Light. I said STAY in the Light. in John 8:12 Jesus says, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life."  They need to stay connected to Christ, consistent in spending time with Him, and continuously following Him in their daily lives.  To run into the Light would mean that we were far enough away from Him to necessitate a mad dash to safety. If we STAY in the Light we are never so far away that we need to run from the darkness.

     If we stay in the Light then we become vessels for that Light to shine through in this dark world. I can show my children how to be the Light of Christ, and how to bring the comfort of His light into other people's darkness, by doing so myself. It's easier to look the other way. It's easier to hide, than it is to see a person who is a walking disaster and plow straight into their mess. Some people's messes are so big that it's like watching someone in a pit of mud, in the dark of night, unable to see or get solid footing to stand up and walk out. They just keep slipping, sliding, rolling in it. Do we stand on the sidelines for fear of being swallowed by the darkness and getting dirty, or do we climb in after them and lift them out? Why fear darkness and filth if we have been staying in the Light? If Jesus is the Light and we are following Him, then we have the Light of life with us to penetrate the darkness and to illuminate the lives of others who are trapped in it. My children need to know that it is important not to run away from those struggling in the darkness. Instead, I must show them how to run to them, bringing the Light that is Christ.

     If we stay in the Light there is no need to fear the darkness. Psalm 27:1 says, "The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread?" Then there is Psalm 91:1 "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty."  Is there any safer place to be? Is there any safer place to be than in the shelter of the Most High, hidden in His shadow? That is where we are when we stay in the Light...hidden in His shadow and sheltered. The world can freak out around us but we will be at peace knowing that He has us in His grip. The only way to teach my children to stay in the shelter of the Most High is to do it myself, because if I stay sheltered then God's peace and presence will fill me and flow through me to them and they will feel safe. Then they will know what I know...God knows where the suspected murderer is. The police may not, but God does. There is no darkness so dark that God cannot see. Psalm 139:10-12 puts it this way, "If I say surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night, even the darkness is not dark to You, and the light is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You."
   
     To stay in the Light is to carry around in our very being the treasure that is Christ. " For God, who said, 'Light shall shine out of darkness,' is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves." 2 Corinthians 4:6-7.  When we carry around in our "earthen vessels" the Light that is Christ, we carry the power of Christ within us. Christ is the answer...has always been the answer. Christ is the answer to how we face the darkness. He is the answer that I want my girls to see in how I face darkness. I want them to see that the Light is always more powerful than any darkness that we face.

    We all experience darkness from time to time. We can choose to hide from it, run from it, or participate in it. We can also choose to face it and bring the light that is Christ into the midst of it. My prayer is that God will help me to respond to the darkness by bringing His light and that as my girls witness this, they will know what to do when darkness comes. What about you? What darkness do you face today? Don't face it alone. Stay in the Light!







Friday, October 3, 2014

Insecurity...

   Sometimes there are things that God nudges me to share that I don't want to. We have discussed this blog for two days now and He has been persistent! I have learned through the years not to continue digging my heels in when God nudges me to do something. Now, if I could only learn not to dig my heels in at all! Did you hear that? That was my husband saying Amen!

     There are a few reasons why I don't want to write about insecurity. First, it's deeply personal and second, I am still in the process of understanding it and working through it. I would much rather write when I feel I can be helpful because I have finished going through something. So, here is my disclaimer: I am a work in progress and I don't have this problem of insecurity figured out. What I share today will only be my journey and the conclusions that I have reached so far. I haven't met a person yet who doesn't have some level of insecurity. Most likely you have some of your own. Be thankful that God isn't asking you to blog about them!

     There are all kinds of insecurities. We can feel insecure about ourselves in a general sense. We can feel insecure about our finances, our abilities, or our futures. Insecurity can even effect some parts of our lives and not others. There are some people whose whole lives are marked by insecurity. I thought that I had gotten past some of my insecurities until about a month ago. God used a book I was reading to bring an area of insecurity to my attention. It made me really uncomfortable. I learned that I was still allowing some of the hurts from the past to make me feel insecure and to hinder me in the present. As uncomfortable as the realization initially was, after a while it felt a little bit like a relief. I now understood the REAL reason why I am the way I am in certain situations, instead of buying the excuses that I had made for myself. Let me explain...

    I was bullied all through junior high school. You name it, I was made fun of for it. My parents had just moved us from New Jersey to Pennsylvania the summer before seventh grade. I was the new kid so I was bullied. I didn't have the latest name brand clothing, so I was bullied. Once they figured out I was a Christian, I was bullied. In fact, the girl who bullied me the most, had a locker right next to mine and she was a Satanist. My parents solution was to tell me to "kill them with kindness". How do you kill a Satanist with kindness?  I was bullied for being too chubby, too ugly. I was bullied for not having a boyfriend. I was bullied for being terrible at sports. I was bullied for having a giant red duffle bag instead of a backpack, that my mother wouldn't let me return to the store! When they ran out of options they started rumors that I was gay, of course I wasn't really gay. Being gay was unacceptable then, so when I went to lunch I sat alone because everyone else moved to the other end of our assigned tables. It became so upsetting that I didn't eat and my parents called the guidance counselor, who called me into his office and said, "toughen up kid it's a cruel world". You would think that I could find refuge at my church youth group, but I did not. The kids there either ignored me or made it known that they disliked me.  I learned quickly to accept any token of friendship I could get, and most of them came from the other kids that were being bullied. These are all of the things that God has shown me, still effect me.

     I thought I was passed it. I certainly hadn't thought about it in years. In fact, I have often credited God with using it to mold me into who I am today. Being bullied taught me to listen with compassion. It taught me to put myself in other people's shoes. Being bullied, taught me that we are all broken and we waste time pretending that we have it all together. No one has it all together. We are all a work in progress. Yet, God has shown me that there is this other part of me that He needs to make whole. There is a way in which being bullied has left me with lasting insecurity that only He can get rid of. Being bullied still effects me in social situations, specifically when I have to meet new people or find myself in a large group. I am only surprised that I wasn't able to connect the dots with these things before. I now know that I have made excuses instead. Excuses like, "That's just my personality, I'm not as out going as my husband" or " I don't like making small talk" and " I don't speak unless I have something to say".

    God has shown me that I don't like introducing myself to new people or having conversations with people I don't know well because I am insecure. I don't consciously do it, but I somehow assume that I won't have anything interesting to say. God has shown me that I don't like spending time in large group settings like wedding receptions or potluck dinners because I don't want to make conversation.  Somewhere along the line I have accepted the idea that I don't have anything worth saying, they won't like what I have to say, or they may talk to me for a little while but will soon get bored. So, I avoid these things if I can. If I can't avoid them, then I tend to make sure that I have someone with me who is the life of the party so that I can just tag along and hover in the background. God is in the process of showing me how this can be a hindrance. See, I may feel insecure about myself in some ways, but I feel very secure about myself in others.

     I know who I am in Christ. I know the things that He has gifted me with. I know that anything He asks me to do, He equips me to do it. I know that He loves me just as I am. I am secure in using the gifts that He has given me. I am secure in sharing Christ with others.  Wait....there is the hindrance. I can share Christ with others and I have done it, but this insecurity in large groups and in meeting new people...it slows the process. There may be people that God wants me to share His love with and I may miss the opportunity because of my own insecurity. I may miss the opportunity because I have become too comfortable hovering in the background and making excuses for myself. So what do I do?

     This is the question that I keep asking God and this is the part not yet finished. You see, before now I didn't know I had a problem and so it didn't bother me. Now, I want it fixed...like yesterday! Yet, it's been my experience that God is all about the journey....and journeys are long!   Right now, I am asking God to heal my broken places because I don't want my insecurities to cause me any more missed opportunities. I have no idea what that healing will look like, and I don't care. I just want to be whole...to be completely who God is making me to be and I don't want this to stand in the way.

     There it is! I did it. God can't bug me anymore today to blog about this! All joking aside, we all have insecurities. The question is do we want to continue in them or do we want to be set free and made whole? You may never have to share yours with anyone the way that I just shared mine, but what good does it do to keep it to yourself? Remember, no one really has it all together!  Can we do this together? Will you journey with me and ask God to expose your insecurities and how they are hindering you? After He exposes them, will you invite Him to heal your broken places and set you free?  Free, free to be who He says we are, to do what He calls us to do, and to go where He calls us to go.